…no longer found

It’s just a little below −2° C, and I had a large number of other things to work on, but I slipped out around 2.30 am to check on Nair al Saif. As expected, the area showed no sign of the anomalous object, but it’s still not clear if this was something real or simply an artefact of the imaging setup. It’s too cold and too late to check out further (and still no luck in connecting the GPUSB to Maxim – I get a message telling me I don’t have a valid .dll file when I try to connect to the supplied .dll file) . I have work tomorrow, so it’s time for bed.

Not an asteroid…

Following up on my previous post, I did not image the Nair al Saif area last night, discouraged by bright moonlight and high cloud. A check of the minor planets database showed nothing in the area down to magnitude 20. The estimated position and times used in the check were RA 5h 35.6m Dec −5° 52.’1, October 8, 0845 UT – about 4.45 am EDT. A comparison with the Palomar Sky Survey (POSS1_red) shows a star at approximately the position of the magnitude 8 object slightly north of ι Ori, but I have no good catalogue match. The measured position is 5h 35m 16s.42 and −05° 52′ 33″.6 with a position error of ±0.5″ with an approximate brightness of 8.4 mag. ±0.5. I was looking for a relatively dim star with an infrared excess since there is no IR-blocker on the Toucam, but I had no success. This could easily be an image defect, so without a further image of the area I will stand mute–the enjoyment here was in the search process.

What star am I looking at?

It was a rather peculiar night.

To start with I had done no preparatory work, and when I plugged in my Shoestring GPUSB unit I couldn’t connect it to Maxim DL, though the unit was recognised by Windows. Autoguiding is out of the question, at least for the moment – though I’ll try later with other software, I suspect I’m missing something — a driver? a working plug-in? — in my Maxim installation. I guess I should have gone for the CD and manual!

I thought I could at least check out the sensitivity of the Toucam mounted on the Express 80. I pointed the scope at M42, but I was so far out of focus I couldn’t find a star. For all that I complain about the Moon, this time around it was a big help in getting close to focus. I aimed at the moon, moved around until I got a light on the screen, and then focused in. The field of view is pretty large (about 26′ x 19′ according to the Starry Night FOV calculator), but I still missed M42 when I moved back to my original target. What I saw was an unresolved multiple star, so I grumbled under my breath and assumed I had found the Trapezium. I spent a while trying to resolve the star, but I couldn’t do it. Finally (I was freezing! the temperature was just over 1°C) I took a 30 second movie of the image and packed up for the night.

Later I ran the movie through Lynkeos and matched it against the Orion region of the sky. I had been looking at Nair al Saif, ι Ori, rather than the Trapezium (half a degree away), so it’s no surprise that I couldn’t get it to break up into four stars. When I compared the image with the expected star field I came up with a couple of surprises.

reduced image from toucam

The stars highlighted in the red circles are probably real and could not be identified (asteroids? variable stars? novae?), and those between the red lines are possibly real and unidentified — one of these may be a companion star of the Nair al Saif system as it is in roughly the right position though it seems a little bright. There is a 7th magnitude component swallowed up in the glare of the main star, but the distorted image has the right shape. You can click on the image to see the magnitudes for the identified stars. I will try to capture this area again with a little foreknowledge of what I am looking at.

There are times when I really hate the Moon….

I had hoped to get at least some imaging done tonight, but so far the Moon has been too bright (and the neighbours are helping out with lots of lights as well). All in all, this adds up to a sky quality meter reading of… 15.31! It’s clear, but the sky brightness is off the chart. I’ll let things percolate until about 3.30 or 4.oo am, and see if things look any better with the moon a little further across the sky – but I’m not expecting much.

Too good to be true?

I am anxiously awaiting the fall of night, when — despite the full moon — I hope to put first light through the Express 80 working as a guidescope. I bought Maxim DL and it is installed on my company laptop (looks as though I’ll have to buy one of my own, unless I can pick up a MacIntel and use that). A GPUSB from Shoestring Astronomy, a new six-conductor cable and my Toucam. and I hope to be all set. The ClearSky Clock for tonight looks close to perfect

CSC for Oct 7 2006

except for the moonlight, so I will try for a few more-or-less foolproof exposures of easy objects just to check out the guiding.

I still haven’t installed the L4 Gemini upgrade, but I’m going to hold off on that while I test out the autoguiding. One thing at a time!